Out now on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch is Labyrinth of Zangetsu – an ink-infused adventure from developers Acquire Corp (Octopath Traveler) and PQube (Curse of the Sea Rats and Gal*Gun: Double Peace) that takes us back to ancient Japan to fight some corrupted oni sorts.
Taking place during the Ido era, a mysterious dark ink corrupts the inhabitants (known as the Ink of Ruin) and makes them into horrible sods. You’re enlisted as part of the Blightbane Conscripts that will infiltrate the infected areas and remove their deadly influence. Cue a motley crew of thieves, ninjas and wizards, and we have ourselves an adventure.
You can create a team of various classes, albeit limited when starting Labyrinth of Zangetsu. Assign a few stats here and there and ensure you have six in the crew – three at the front and three at the back. Allegiances can be made by aligning your character with the good, evil, or neutral path. The benefits? A few buffs/debuffs, but it can also affect your team’s dynamics if you have some evil bastard paired up with a goody-goody.
Labyrinth of Zangetsu Review (PS4)
Like Eye of the Beholder, with artwork that’s not too far removed from Kingdom of the Dead, you navigate a series of mazes, eradicating the corruption left by the ink. That usually entails turn-based battles with enemies and their subsequent boss counterparts. As can be expected, there’s the usual medley of melee, ranged and magic-based attacks; only your characters are in a front and back formation, meaning if you don’t have a bit pointy stick at the back, you’ll most likely be a waste of space.
At the start of each battle in Labyrinth of Zangetsu, you can attack, equip some gear, reorganise your party, run away, or the best option for a grindy turn-based game: repeat the actions you previously selected. The latter option is convenient when you run out of magic and have to spam your attacks, hoping your chums have enough fortitude to stick it out. Usually, they do, but seriously, the magic in this game is so restrictive and runs out very quickly. Probably because it’s so effective. Still, there are consumables, so chill, Winston.
Consumables, schumables… it’s pointless if you’ve got the same old team flatlining each time. Good news: each character levels up, increasing their base stats, plus earning mastering of their class, i.e. improved combat or holy magic skills. XP is earned in battles, as well as new, random gear to improve your offence and defence. Between the campaign, there’s a hub called Ido where new characters can be enlisted – which means you can create a new one from scratch and then add them to your ranks. A merchant is available to buy and sell goods, and then there’s a temple to cure anyone of curses or resurrect a fallen member. Alas, the better the teammate, the more it costs.
Round and Round
Labyrinth of Zangetsu wasn’t anything special at first. The UI and font choice is a bit naff, in my opinion, and the storyline didn’t pull me in. However, after the first trial, a.k.a. tutorial, the maps expand, and a good selection of enemy units evolve as your level improves. The artwork is very good and fuses Japanese-style illustrations with Western ones, complementing one another quite well. Because of the ink theme, it’s quite a saturated palette, so if you’re expecting something bright, stick with Super Mario.
Eventually, I was hooked, noting that there was a way to do a run or two on a section, level up the party, then re-attempt a battle with the boss, or perhaps unlock a new skill or two. Though I liked this element, Labyrinth of Zangetsu became very repetitive. After almost every win, there’s the opportunity to open a chest, which means assigning a character to lockpick it and disarm any traps. Or brute forcing it. The issue with this is only one of my players had the stats, so it was almost a case of spamming this section. After every battle. Likewise, some of the quests would lock up, and in one scenario, I had to repeat an area to obtain an item for an NPC, even though it was already in my possession.
With the above in mind, Labyrinth of Zangetsu was entertaining, if somewhat grindy, and too unforgiving with some of the checkpoints/portals to return home. If that doesn’t phase you and you’re interested in a pick-up-and-play turn-based title, then it’s alright. Again, I’m happy to grind away, but it’s a hard sell if the above doesn’t appeal.